INDIA. Delhi: According to the Delhi High Court, no person or organisation, including a violator, may claim the defence of free speech or the right to privacy to avoid paying a price for unlawful behaviour.
The high court remarked while ordering messaging service Telegram to provide in a sealed cover the specifics of channels, including their cell numbers and IP addresses, that were propagating specific content in violation of copyright law.
When dealing with a lawsuit filed by a coaching facility and its owner against the “illegal” sharing of its instructional materials on various channels on the platform using “masked” identities, Justice Prathiba M Singh stated that Telegram’s reliance on the laws of privacy and the right to free speech and expression was “completely inapposite in these facts and circumstances.”
According to the judgement, the plaintiffs would be helpless to pursue damages until the owners of the infringing channels were made public.
“Telegram relied on Article 21 of the Constitution’s privacy protection regulations and Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, which safeguards the right to freedom of speech and expression. In these situations, the same is wholly inappropriate.”
The top court stated in its judgement dated August 30 that “any person or entity, let alone an infringer, cannot claim the right to freedom of speech or the right to life including the right to privacy to escape the consequences of illegal activities.”
The high court disagreed, saying that since channels were “clearly hydra-headed” and kept popping up one after another due to how simple they can be created, simply disabling or taking them down was an “insufficient remedy” in response to Telegram’s argument that it was required to withhold the identity of the information’s originator because it was an intermediary under the Information Technology (IT) Act.
Additionally, Justice Singh emphasised that “the copyright owners cannot be wholly left without any legal recourse against the real infringers simply because Telegram chose to place its server in Singapore.”
The Plaintiffs are rendered irreparable for seeking damages unless and until the name of the operators of these channels, who are ex-facie infringers of the Plaintiffs’ copyright, is given.
The top court stated that “take down” or blocking orders are only temporary palliatives, and in the absence of monetary compensation for damages and the proliferation of infringing platforms, the copyright owner’s ability to produce and publish may be significantly diminished.
The judge stated, “The Supreme Court recognises that if there is an existing law to justify the disclosure of information and there is a need for the disclosure considering the nature of encroachment of the right, then privacy cannot be a ground to justify non-disclosure, so long as the same is not disproportionate.”
The high court emphasised that traditional notions of territoriality cannot be strictly applied in the age of cloud computing and eroding national boundaries in data storage. If copyright protection is not updated to reflect the changing times, it will have a chilling effect on progressive initiatives taken by educators to share their materials and ensure accessibility.
In the facts and circumstances of the current case, Telegram-Defendant No.1 is directed to disclose the details of the channels/devices used in disseminating the infringing content, mobile numbers, IP addresses, email addresses, etc., used to upload and communicate the infringing material, as per the list of channels filed with the present application. If there is a new list of channels that violate our terms, please send it to Telegram within a week.
Within two weeks, Telegram will disclose the information about the infringing channels and the specifics of the devices/servers/networks on which they are built, their founders, and operators, including any phone numbers, IP addresses, and email addresses used for this purpose.
The court was instructed to file the afore mentioned information in a sealed cover at this time.